Boston Ballet makes contemporary leaps and bounds
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The show was a celebration and exposé of the human body. What seemed like a logical and methodical progression of a more traditional ballet to contemporary pieces turned out to be a pragmatic approach to the artform.
The first of the three performances was the light-hearted George Balanchine’s “Donizetti Variations.” Choreographed to the ballet music from act two of Donizetti’s 1843 opera, “Don Sebastian.” The performance features a principal couple, surrounded by an ensemble of three men and six women. This piece is flirty and funny and has some sugary-sweet components similar to that of “Swan Lake” or “The Nutcracker” performances. The color scheme is blue and pink cotton candy and the tulle of the women’s skirts was effortlessly beautiful. There is a real sense of innocence and naiveness in this performance, the shy and demure facial expressions goes hand in hand with the tip-toeing of the pointe shoes and the impeccable 16 turns from male lead, Junxiong Zhao.
The following performance is Jirí Kylían’s “Wings of Wax.” This piece has a much darker tone that is initially set when the curtain rose and reveals a dead tree hanging upside down from the ceiling. Circling the tree was a single spotlight which cast eerie shadows along the faces of the dancers and the limbs of the tree. It was in this piece that the contemporary tone for the night really started to settle in. While the precision of the dancers movements are calculated and confident, this piece displays the musculature and strength needed to execute a performance such as this.
The finale and ultimate highlight of the night, is “Cacti.” As a nod to postmodern dance and criticism, this dance is almost ironically contemporary. The first half of the performance is a rhythmic experience which involves 16 company members on individual tiles, mercilessly beating their hands on the surface of the tiles and themselves to create this explosive sound. Accompanied by a string quartet, the dancers writhe and twist around their small squares, in a choreographed chaos. The title of the performance doesn’t come into play until the second half, when all of the dancers rush off stage and return, each holding a succulent. They then construct this massive structure made from their individual tiles and proceed to duck and hide behind it, save two dancers.
Seemingly in the midst of a rehearsal of their own accord, narrated thoughts are announced over the speaker for both the man and the woman. It was incredibly funny, entertaining to watch and listen to what was construed as normal thought processes that occur in the minds of skilled dancers. All the while, a pretentious voice is overheard on the loudspeaker, lamenting in a monologue regarding “collaboration.” The narrator comments on this concept, “a world where we’re not dancers, not musicians, but all members of the human orchestra.”
Although the night contained a colorful array of modern and postmodern dance, the evening could not have displayed a smoother transition from one piece to another.